Christians and Divorce
Christians who fear that ending their marriage would conflict with
God’s will should consider the Scriptural recognition that some marital conditions are worse than divorce.
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Many people stay in an
ineffective marriage for years, needlessly and dysfunctionally living in a fantasy world of
enabling, distracting, justifying and rationalizing. These unhappy souls will
maintain this love-impoverished status until they decide to act or they die. To
paraphrase Dr. Phil, they are already divorced; they just have not yet signed
While there are many reasons that people persist in tolerating this depressing
existence, the causes ultimately boil down to the fact that they simply choose
to do so.
My purpose – as a seminary-trained evangelical Christian, an attorney, and a
strong advocate of marriage – in compiling some observations from over 35 years
of advocating in family law settings is to address the theological
aversion of many unhappily married Christians to considering divorce.
I agree with the noted psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck (in
A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered) that there are two good reasons for marriage: (1)
for the care and raising of children, and (2) the “friction” (i.e., the
smoothing out of each others’ rough edges). However, all too often, a bad
marriage stops the resulting
environment from being the best one in which to raise children, and/or the
friction becomes fracturing.
Many unhappily married individuals come to me professing to be (and, I believe,
are) Christians, who are miserable in their marriages but are struggling with
the thought of divorcing solely on the grounds of their misery. In our
consultation, I first discuss less egregious options, such as effective
counseling or pursuing some “tough love” boundary setting. If these and other such
options have been tried without success, or if dramatic circumstances (such as
actual or threatened physical abuse) exist, we talk about any reasons they can
think of to stay with their spouse.
Let me be clear: I do not encourage divorce.
That is a decision to be made only by my client and
their spouse. However, after they recount to me the litany of horrific incidents
that drove them to my office, I ask simply: “If your child were sitting where
you are, revealing this same scenario, what would you want your child to do:
divorce or continue along the same path?” Then I ask that they view their own
plight through the same perspective of love and compassion.
Some Christians struggle with an interpretation of a biblical passage or two that may
appear to prohibit divorce. Usually, after reviewing specifically what the
passages state, in context, a balanced perspective allows them to make a
more informed and supportable decision. In multiple passages, Moses, Jesus and Paul
acknowledge that some marital conditions – such as
infidelity and abuse – are worse than divorce. (See
1 Corinthians 7 and the surrounding biblical context.) Further, one could
reasonably conclude that the flagrant failure of either spouse to “be subject to one
another” or to have a right relationship with the Lord (see
could undermine the Lord's purpose in joining the couple together.
Ultimately, each person must decide whether a loving God would prefer for them
to divorce over continuing the marital circumstances they currently occupy,
bearing in mind that God doesn’t always confirm the right direction prior to a
person taking action. In other words, God cannot steer what is not moving
I can say this: Of those Christians whom I have assisted with divorce, I have
had none profess regret for divorcing. More often than not, I hear comments such
as, “I should have done this a long time ago.”
This article is not meant to
encourage thoughts of divorce but, rather, to suggest that, under grave
circumstances, after reasonable remedies have been exhausted, divorce is not inherently